Asbestos is composed of fibers that can cause life threatening illness, such as mesothelioma (a cancer), among others. Many companies are being proactive and having asbestos removed before it can harm someone. It can live safely behind walls or ceilings, but as soon as any fibers escape, people may inhale them and become ill. It only takes a tiny amount ingested into the lungs. Unfortunately, the symptoms may not be visible for as long as 40 years, so it’s difficult to prevent getting sick from an unknown source.

Typically, a person becomes exposed to asbestos from work or even home but a third risk is for people that live near places such as shipyards, steel mills, power plants, refineries, and so on where asbestos is used. What happens is that the fibers become disrupted, contaminating nearby residential areas. In addition to the industries mentioned, other common areas include maritime, construction, automotive repair (specifically brakes and clutches), roofing, and railroads.

Just as asbestos can be a serious problem for some types of businesses, it can also exist in many homes and schools. Prior to the 1970s, some materials used for building structures contained asbestos. In fact, an estimated 30 million tons of asbestos fiber was used just in the U.S. during this time, with some winding up in homes and schools.

How can you make sure your home is free of asbestos? First,remember that your home, even if it was built before 1970, does not necessarily contain asbestos. The majority of individuals that have developed health problems related to asbestos worked in industries where asbestos was prevalent, but were not exposed in their home. In addition, bear in mind that the majority of people exposed to small amounts of asbestos do not become ill.

However, if for any reason, you r suspect that your home may have asbestos products, contact the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to request a listing of licensed or certified techniques who can check the home for asbestos and if found, remove it. The EPA may also recommend that you contact a separate firm to have them conduct an assessment to confirm there is no asbestos present from the other finding.

If you plan on building a home always check the materials used carefully to see if they are labeled free of asbestos. Until you verify that each product is safe, contact the product manufacturer to find out exactly what is contained in each product.

When you purchase a home from a private seller, the seller is required by law to disclose any known hazards to you, including asbestos. Apartment buildings built prior to 1970 may have materials that include asbestos in their construction. Remember that asbestos only becomes truly dangerous when the product breaks down or opens, until then it is not a health risk.

In 1995 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set guidelines for asbestos discovery and follow-up in work environments. Any time it’s found, employees must be notified. The same applies to rental units. If your potential landlord informs you of existing asbestos, it will be your choice to live there or not.